How Soon After I am Injured do I Have to File a Lawsuit?

Generally speaking due to the statute of limitations in each state you should file a lawsuit as soon as possible after an accident.

Have you been injured and are wondering how soon after you have to file a lawsuit? This blog entry will tell you:

  • The strict time limits for personal injury claims in California
  • Important information regarding the personal injury lawsuit process
  • Why each day you wait is harming your case, and how acting immediately is in your best financial interest

If you’ve been injured due to negligence, then you are entitled to receive compensation from the guilty party. However, the State of California imposes a strict deadline known as a statute of limitations that limits the amount of time following an accident in which you are allowed to file a claim.

Not only is there a statute of limitations, the longer you wait, the more harm you are doing to the potential outcome of your case.

Here are some answers regarding how soon after an accident you have to file a lawsuit:

How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit in California?

The State of California imposes a strict two-year limit from the date of the injury to file a claim. This applies to:

  • Car Accidents
  • And most other personal injury claims

Think of the statute of limitations as a “countdown” that determines the validity of your case. What confuses many of our clients is exactly when their countdown begins. That is, from when does the two-year limit actually begin?

Some important information regarding the start date of your countdown:

  • Car Accident Claims – The clock begins to countdown on the date of the accident.
  • Accidents Resulting in Death – In this unfortunate situation, the clock begins to countdown on the date of the person’s death, not the day of the injury.
  • Vehicle Damage – You have three years to sue over damages to your vehicle.
  • Claims Against a Government Entity – If you want to make a claim against a city, county, or the state, you have only six months to initiate the proceedings.

How does waiting to file a claim harm my case?

While the law may say you have a two-year limit to file your case, in reality, the deadline is much sooner. If you wait too long, you may severely decrease the size of the settlement you receive, or worse, lose the case entirely.

Click here for a visual representation of a typical personal injury claim timeline

The complexity of personal injury cases requires a dedicated team of lawyers to construct a case, prove the fault (known legally as “negligence”) of the person who hurt you, and calculate the damages you’ve suffered (for example, missed time at work, pain and suffering, and medical bills). The longer you wait, the less time we have to do this.

More importantly, the passage of time often obscures a witness’ memory. Since witness and expert testimony form the basis of many cases, the prosecution will use this against you, weakening your case and your attorney’s leverage when negotiating your settlement.

How can I learn more about the limitations on my injury claim?

Personal injury claims are some of the most complex cases in law. The only way to know how the laws affects you, how much you can expect to win, and whether or not it’s too late to file is to contact personal injury attorneys in California immediately for a consultation.


Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.